Friday, November 9, 2012

The Best Piña Colada Cupcakes You'll Ever Have!

Seriously though… the coconut cream and the pineapple hibiscus on top? Superfly.


I adapted Carrot Top Mom’s absolutely fantastic coconut cupcake recipe after making it with my roommates! I had done a bake sale the week before with sold out piña colada cupcakes, but I wasn’t done trying new things so after having experienced the nirvana of Carrot Tom Mom’s recipe, I decided to put my own twist on it!


Another neat trick? DIY cupcake stand! 2 plates and a cup couldn’t be happier! Mismatch them or find similar colours, it all looks great! 

You’ll need a can of coconut milk (ideally full-fat is best). If you can put it in the fridge the day before, that’d be great, if not, 20 min in the freezer will suffice as coconut milk/oil has a low-temp state of change. You basically want the cream in the milk to separate from the water, giving you a beautiful glossy cream to work with and a flavourful coconut water to add to the cupcakes. So now you’re probably waiting and I’ll give you the DL on it!
Preheat oven to 350*F
  • 2 c. flour (all purpose is just fine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • 1 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 can of coconut milk (leftover from frosting—see below)
  • 1/2 can of pineapple chunks (juice sieved out or patted dry)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar (for the frosting)
  • Maraschino cherries with stems 
  • 1 whole pineapple 
Let’s do the flower!
  • Slice the husk off the pineapple (don’t worry if it’s not round) and proceed to slice  rounds that are approximately 1/3 of a centimeter thick. Dry them out in the oven (350* is fine) on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper (try to dry them out on both sides) and bake them until the edges turn golden.
  • With a knife put a small hole in the center for the stem of a maraschino cherry to go through. Set them aside in a dry place.

I recommend prepping the coconut milk before making the batter so you have your coconut water to use for the cupcake batter. Leggo! 
  • After letting your trusty can of coconut milk sit in the freezer for 20 min (or in the fridge overnight), carefully pull it out without tossing it about or turning it upside down. Open the can and take the cream from the top that has collected, transferring it into a mixing bowl; take as much of it as you can without getting any of the “coconut water” at the bottom. Ideally, 2/3 of the can will have turned into cream, leaving 1/3 of the can (mostly coconut water) for your cupcakes. Save the remainder in the can, and put the bowl of cream aside.
Let’s get started on the cupcakes!
  • Sift together the flour, salt & baking powder
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar together. Add one egg at a time as you mix and then add the vanilla. 
  • Into the wet mix, alternate adding 1/3 of the dry mix and 1/2 of the coconut water from the can and mix—do not over mix! Just mix until the flour is all incorporated. You should finish by mixing the last 1/3 of the dry mix in. 
  • Good work! Now you batter is thickened and ready for the pineapple aspect of the cakes! Get the pineapple chunks that you’ve patted dry and FOLD them in with a spatula. Try not to mix too much! You don’t want to ruin the batter. Fold until evenly incorporated. 
  • Get your batter into the cupcake liners & tins now. I recommend going 2/3 up. 
  • With your oven preheated to 350*F, put the tins in and bake for 10-15 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out fairly clean.
  • Now that you’re patiently waiting for the cupcakes to happen, go ahead and work on the frosting. Get the cream that you’ve collected from the can and whip it with an electric mixer until fluffy. Introduce about 2 cups of powdered sugar and whip it in. Taste as you go, just in case you don’t want it too sweet. Also feel free to add more. If you’re not frosting them right away, go ahead and put the frosting into the fridge. 


When the cupcakes have cooled remove a small section in the middle to fit the maraschino cherry (you can use a grapefruit spoon or a small melon-baller). Now you can frost them using a spatula or a spoon. Insert the cherry and then when adding the pineapple petals, insert the cherry’s stem through the hole you made in the flower. Voila!


Monday, November 5, 2012

SoCal Chili

It's fall! What's better than some chili for those cool breezy nights? Plus, it's an excuse to bake some cornbread. ;) 
My roommate recently bought some black beans that she couldn’t use, so she gave them to me and I needed to come up with a recipe that I could use them in. I also had some bacon ends and bits that I just bought because… because of reasons. All of my housemates are on a health kick so when I shop with them, I tend to buy all veggies and produce and whatnot. But my real self jumped out momentarily and tossed a bag of bacon ends and bits into my cart. I’m glad she’s still around because it really changes everything about this chili! (For a vegetarian take, see below*)
I also had some colourful bell peppers that were just shouting to be cooked. They really are so gorgeous. And the sweetness is INSANE with the smokiness of this chili. And what more could you want other than some fresh California avocado, spring onions, cheese and sour cream to dress it up? Here’s my take on chili!:
Serves 6
What you’ll need:
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1 handful of bacon bits and ends (you can pick this up from Trader Joe’s for cheap!), and of course, you can leave this out if you're making a vegetarian dish
  • 2 med bell peppers (I used 1 yellow and 1 orange) chopped coarsely
  • 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne/red pepper
  • 2 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp of BBQ rub
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 3 cans of black beans
  • 1 can (15 or 16oz) of tomato sauce
  • 1 ripe avocado (cubed)
Cook the bacon bits and ends in a pot on the stove on medium while you chop the onions, peppers and garlic. Once the smell has properly saturated the room (a few minutes), add the olive oil. Wait about a minute to let the oil heat up and then add the peppers, onions and garlic. Stir frequently while waiting for the onions to turn a bit translucent (5 min or so), bring it down to a simmer, and then add the cayenne, oregano, rub and cumin and stir to allow the spices to meld. After a couple minutes, add the beans with 1/2c of the liquid reserve. Mix in the tomato sauce and let the chili come to a boil (bring it back up to medium). When it starts boiling, bring it back down to a simmer and let it reduce for 15-20 min. Stir frequently. Salt to taste (I didn’t need to add any more flavour, but add it to your liking) and then serve with some grated cheese (I’m partial to Asiago) and top with avocado cubes. Enjoy! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Published in Ruche's Sugar & Spice

Hey readers! I'm delighted to share that I've been featured in Ruche's cookbook Sugar & Spice! Get my macaron recipe and many others right here!:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Warm Summer Night's Dinner

Time for more foodventures! This time, I teamed up with Titowpuente to create a feast of sorts for my family. We went Hawaiian-Japanese for the themed dinner.

That day was particular scorching as the tail end of the Indian summer wound up for it’s final pitch. We nearly canceled our cooking session because turning on the stove and oven would only increase the temperature, right? We resorted to a cooler meal: instead of slaving over the stove massaging arborio rice into risotto, we decided to go with a cold somen salad, with yakitori for a side. 

It took quite a while, the whole endeavour, as we had to hit the supermarkets (this meal required a special trip to the Asian market to get kamaboko, or fishcake), but it was very much worth it and there was plenty of food for all! 

Want to duplicate the dinner? Here you go:
Just a tip: For the teriyaki sauce that the yakitori recipe asks you to make, I would half the measurements so you won’t have so much leftover. :) Also, in addition to chicken, we added tasty chicken liver onto the skewers. Delicious!

Puff City!

Image from Big Island Grinds
My last trip to Hawaii brought me to a little hole-in-the-wall pastry shop called Puff City. The hype on Yelp as well as hype from an uncle of mine got me to the humble establishment at a honking 6am! First of all, I am not, by any means, a morning person, so you can imagine how important this foodie trip was for me. Or you can imagine the fear of getting there at 8am and only being able to grab what's left! Anyways, now you reap the rich rewards of my puffy reviews as well as that of my puffy ego. Here you go!:

Lilikoi (passion fruit) Mousse- exquisite! Definitely my favourite puff of them all; with rave reviews of it on Yelp and and awarded most-popular-puff from Michael at Puff City, that seemed to be the flagship puff that simply doesn't mess around. Coated in a lilikoi ganache, it really does earn its esteem: light and fragrant, it captures the essence of the fruit without compromising in sweetness (far too many lilikoi products are overloaded with sugar).

Lychee- delightful! The mousse is literally like a flower, being very aromatic. Much of the lychee fruit's sweetness and character is in it's juicy and somewhat meaty pulp. While a pastry can't really capture that, the lychee puff does maintain the floral fragrance of the tropics-loving fruit. It makes me hungry for more possibilities of flower-scented morsels; reminds me of rose and lavender gelato I had in Nice, France. :)

Coffee Mousse with Chocolate Ganache & Heath Bar Bits- the highlight of this puff is the coffee mousse! Accompanied by the chocolate ganache, this puff has a good marriage of flavour... and then you get to the toffee, which really sells this puff. I would almost like to see what Puff City could do with a sea salt caramel puff. :)

Coconut Mousse with Chocolate Ganache- the coconut flavour in this isn't as strong as it would be in haupia (a Hawaiian coconut milk pudding), but I respect it as an artistic choice. Nonetheless, the coconut scent still shines through in this puff. The shredded coconut marries the puff together amidst the chocolate ganache (which is a tad bit overpowering)--the trick is to take a whiff of the shredded coconut with your bite (like the strawberry daiquiri at the Noble Experiment in San Diego).

Mocha Rum- the rum flavour is evident in the mousse and the mocha is subtle behind the rum. I do find that this puff relies heavily on the ganache for its taste.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Teshima Restaurant- Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Teshima Restaurant (located at 79-7251 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750) is a family restaurant, with 3 generations currently working in the Japanese-style joint. Shizu-Obaachan, who recently turned 107, is still running the place as cheerfully as ever. It's a little in the middle of nowhere on the Kailua-Kona-side of the Big Island, but if you're in the area and want a nice lunch or dinner, stop here!

Price: $$
Overall Experience: 4 stars/5 stars

Teshima is best known for their tenpura/tempura, or Japanese battered and deep fried foods dipped in a brothy-sauce, so naturally I had to sample this on my first trip to the restaurant. ("What the Big Island Likes to Eat" highly recommends the kettle-cooked tofu dish and I can say that was also fantastic--my huge family ordered basically half the menu, so I had a good go at everything.) I ordered the Thursday lunch special, which comes with a cup of miso soup, a tray of pickled veg, a bowl of rice, barley tea, a side of really tasty and well-marinated spare ribs and gorgeous platter of golden tenpura. The tenpura was traditionally done and perfect--not over or undercooked, not too oily, great colour, etc... Teshima served up these things in my tenpura: ahi, yam, zucchini, eggplant, green bean and a lovely surprise of purple potato! Look at that colour!:

The dipping sauce was also great, not overly salty, with a nice sweetness. The spareribs were magnificent (I'd just gotten my wisdom teeth done, so a bit tough to eat for me still) and soo well-marinated! Just the smell of them would do a number on you! It sat on a bed of lettuce, which I was really yearning for (local Hawaiian food does not generally serve up much veg, just a lot of meat, starch and gravy). The tenpura was definitely the star of my plate and I would order this again when revisiting Teshima Restaurant.

Don't worry, eat happy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Son of a Gun! It's Matcha!

Today we're saluting matcha green tea powder... the holy baking element that punches a hole in your wallet like a 24 karat fairy dust. Sometimes racking up to $15 per ounce, matcha is made through a crazy process in which only the finest, shade-grown leaves are picked, de-stemmed and deveined and stone ground, a process which can take up to an hour for only 30 grams of the stuff! Talk about labour. But, man-oh-man, it's freakin' beautiful:

Matcha has other purposes besides being used in baked goods. Although it's super fine and pure, I don't think snorting it is  a golden idea.
I must say, in my past baking experience, I tried to get away with baking cakes by using the tea leaves (also called "matcha green tea") in the packets sold at stores. No can do. I even put a sackful in my Magic Bullet in vain hopes of reproducing the powder. It was like watching a five-year old try to drive an Escalade through a Gymboree... sheer hilarity. Not only were my cakes missing the bamboo-green hue of the powder, they were also lacking the quintessential flavour of matcha. Tragedy. First world tragedy, but nonetheless a tragedy. My success began when I finally grabbed the situation by the balls and put my baking before my penny-pinching tendencies (I found a small bottle of culinary matcha--pictured below--at the local Mitsuwa for $6). And boy, was it worth it...

Here's the recipe for ya! (adapted/size-adjusted from here because I made it for a small dinner party and didn't want a monster-sized cake, whose remains would have to sit in the refrigerator waiting for the Cretaceous period.)

Oven at 350*F
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp matcha powder 
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened (1/2 c)
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 sour cream or plain yogurt

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and matcha powder. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Next: mix or fold in the dry mix. You're ready to bake! Put it in a 9" round or something of a similar size and in the oven she goes for about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Give it the good ol' toothpick test before removing your beautiful cake. Let it cool before turning it out, slicing it, and dressing it with powdered sugar (use a sifter, or else you'll end up with  a hot, chalky mess).

So if you're a dedicated baker and now have this little can of matcha sitting in your cupboard, what else do you do with it? Well, if it's not baking matcha, treat yourself to a cup of tea! You deserve it. OR you can let you imagination fly with it! 

My friend Steven made matcha-frosted cupcakes filled with azuki (bean) for his birthday. Beautiful, no?
 One of my favourite treats with matcha are these suckers:

Yes, matcha macarons! Catherine of TheFoodCult gang helped me (literally) whip up this batch and they were brilliant! Another plus: these babies are gluten-free--almond flour is traditionally used to make macarons rather than all-purpose flour! To add matcha to your macs, just sift it in with the dry mix. Use enough to change the colour of the mix (the colour will also enhance during baking). If desired, you can mix matcha into your ganache, but I highly recommend "dissolving" it in the heated heavy cream first (dissolving it in water will make the fats in the ganache freak out--it's not worth the mess or the emotional distress) as opposed to adding it later.

Did you learn anything? Anything at all? Well, I hope this was a decent introduction to my slightly-expensive and bougie friend matcha powder. If you think of any crazy inventions with the elegant green fairy dust, send them along this way as I'd love to hear them!